October 1, 2013

State Roundup, October 1, 2013

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NEW LAWS: From cellphone use while driving to shark fin possession to cyberbullying, the Post’s John Wagner gives a rundown of the new laws taking effect today in Maryland.

St. John Barned-Smith of the Gazette writes about a family’s personal tragedy with the synthetic drug “spice,” which as of today is illegal, and other laws that take effect.

Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post looks at the statewide laws taking effect as well as some that will apply solely to Frederick County.

The Capital-Gazette offers a quick photo gallery to highlight some of the new laws.

TOUGHER OPEN MEETINGS LAW: If a government board, council or commission violates the Open Meetings Act, it will have to make sure the public knows, reports Craig O’Donnell for the Kent County News. Last session the Maryland General Assembly passed several bills modifying the law. They were signed by the governor and take effect today. Besides public notification by the offending party, the changes require training in the law, alter fines for violations, and allow opinions from the Open Meetings Compliance Board to be entered as evidence in court cases.

GUN LAW CHALLENGE: Attorneys for the state argued Monday that Maryland’s sweeping new gun law should take effect today as planned, saying that opponents should have lodged their objections months ago. Instead, gun dealers reaped the profits of a months-long firearm-buying frenzy, then challenged the law only late last week, just days before it was scheduled to take effect, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

Monday was the last day Marylanders could purchase handguns without being subject to new fingerprinting and training requirements, reports the Post’s John Wagner.

The Sun editorial board writes that perhaps the ultimate tribute to the strong and well considered gun control measures that go into effect in Maryland today is the tepid challenge gun rights advocates have made to them.

Sen. Brian Frosh, in an op-ed for the Sun, writes that Marylanders by and large support some sort of gun control legislation, whether they own guns or not.

FEWER RETURN TO PRISON: The percentage of Maryland ex-offenders likely to return to prison within three years of release has fallen by double digits since 2000, reports Justin George for the Sun. Secretary Gary Maynard, the top official at the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, credited the prison system’s improved educational and job skills training programs, as well as stronger partnerships with state agencies that provide medical and mental health services to inmates and upon their release.

ICYMI DDA HIGH ERROR RATE: A federal investigator has found that Maryland’s Medicaid program had a 95% error rate in seeking reimbursement for room and board for the developmentally disabled and thus owes the U.S. government nearly $21 million, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun in a story we missed a few weeks ago. Advocates expressed concern that the findings could lead to budget cuts to the program and longer stays on waiting lists for vulnerable individuals and struggling families.

OBAMACARE KICKS IN: As of today, thousands of residents will be able to log onto the state’s health care exchange, the Maryland Health Connection, to browse for medical insurance and even buy a policy. The exchange and others like it across the country are considered key to getting the uninsured insured, which in Maryland is estimated to involve as many as 800,000 people, reports Eileen Ambrose for the Sun. The article is topped by a Time mag video with a quick explaination of the exchanges.

Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com writes that small businesses are not required under the new federal health care law to offer health insurance to their employees, but they are required to notify all employees about the new health insurance marketplace available in their state by Oct. 1.

FEDERAL SHUTDOWN: Aftershocks of the federal government shutdown will be felt today in Frederick County, according to the Frederick News-Post. The majority of operations at Fort Detrick will cease, because most of those who work on post would be required to fall in line with Defense Department directives in the event of a government shutdown.

Caleb Calhoun of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Antietam National Battlefield, and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park were to be closed Tuesday if the House and Senate failed to reach a deal by Monday night.

TROUBLED WATERS, DAY 2: In Part II of the Capital-Gazette’s series on the health of the Chesapeake Bay,

MIZEUR & HISTORY: Josh Kurtz takes a look at Heather Mizeur’s candidacy for governor through the eyes of history in this interesting piece for Center Maryland.

GANSLER TOUTS PRESCHOOLS FOR POOR: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler was to call for using proceeds from the state’s gambling program to fund full-day preschool for children from disadvantaged families, reports John Wagner for the Post.

Gansler proposed that the state pay for all-day preschool for low-income students to close the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students, a disparity the gubernatorial candidate calls “our biggest moral stain,” reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

ANTIETAM CREEK BRIDGE: The Maryland Department of Transportation will give Washington County $1.12 million during the current fiscal year to fund planning and design for a bridge over Antietam Creek that eventually would connect an extension of Professional Court to an extended Yale Drive near Hagerstown, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

ARUNDEL RETIREES’ PLAN: Saying Anne Arundel County is “on a path to bankruptcy if it doesn’t address this issue,” County Executive Laura Neuman told county government employees Monday that significant changes to retiree health care plans must occur to repair a system she described as financially unsustainable, Pamela Wood is reporting in the Sun.

DANCE APOLOGIZES: In an unusually open letter to administrators and teachers Monday, Baltimore County school Superintendent Dallas Dance took responsibility for problems that teachers have had accessing the new elementary school language arts curriculum, which has been frustrating hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers in the first month of school, writes Liz Bowie for the Sun.